Thursday, January 15, 2009

Number Six and Mr. Roarke are cancelled forever

Patrick McGoohan, left, and Riccardo Montalban

Two icons of television passed away within a few hours of one another yesterday. One had a rather prominent place in the pantheon of my youthful heroes, while the other was not, but was someone I met in real life. Patrick McGoohan, 80, and Riccardo Montalban, 88, may have not been on the A-list for most people in Hollywood, but they both played characters who were larger than life. McGoohan was "Number Six" in the strange cult-followed British TV series "The Prisoner," but he was also more than that. The season before McGoohan premiered as the captive on the strange little island, he was the epitome of the British super spy in the short-lived series "Secret Agent Man." Although the series only lasted for one season, its theme song by Baton Rouge native Johnny Rivers was a mainstay of the Sixties at parties and other events where music was played. It was during the height of the interest in the James Bond films starring Sean Connery and McGoohan played the role with aplomb. I loved watching it. McGoohan also played a great villain as evidenced in the first Gene Wilder - Richard Pryor pairing in "The Silver Streak" or as King Edward Longshanks in "Braveheart." He was always cocksure and brooding and I loved him as an actor. Montalban, on the other hand, started work in Hollywood as a singer in movie musicals of all things. Most people will remember him for his role as the mysterious Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island," the hit ABC series of the early 1970s. Of course, trekers (or trekies) will recall him as Khan Noonien Singh, the eventual villain in "Start Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Montalban was way past his prime as an actor when he happened into a jazz club in New Orleans in the late 1980s. He came in one winter night with an entourage and it was decided to let him into the club as a celebrity. I couldn't help noticing he was wearing a leather jacket and...yes...I couldn't help it...I asked him if it was made "of rich, Corninthian leather." To his credit, he laughed genuinely with me, even if he had heard that line 10,000 times before. In any event, he was gracious and I enjoyed sharing a piece of New Orleans with him as he and his guest plainly enjoyed the music that night. So, goodnight, "Number Six" (or as he became in the last episode "Number Two")and goodnight Mr. Roarke. May you both rest in peace until reruns.

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